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Broncos 3rd & Long: if do right, no can defense

The Denver Broncos defense had no answer for the Oakland Raiders offensive gameplan.

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

This is your weekly stat post. I may or may not track the same things every week so while it will still be ice cream, there will be multiple flavors to try throughout the season. This week’s flavor is crap.

The Oakland Raiders came out with an offensive gameplan to stick with the running game on first down. They had 23 first down plays and ran the ball 14 times (excluding the kneel down). While those 14 runs only gained 48 yards (3.4 ypc), they mostly kept the Raiders “ahead of the sticks”. Their first down runs gained 13, 8, 6, 6, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 0, -1, and -2 yards. So they were in secondand 8 or better after 10 out of those 14 first down runs. This allowed them to pick on our two “backups” who were starting on defense - Corey Nelson (in for Todd Davis) and Isaac Yiadom (in for Bryce Callahan).

On second down passes, Derek, don’t call me David, Carr was 8/8 for 53 yards. Not a single one of his second down throws gained a first down. The gains on those throws ranged from 3 to 11 yards, but almost all of the 8 completions set up 3rd and short.

The Raiders were able to convert 10 of 14 third downs against the Denver Broncos. Only two of those were third and long (7 or more needed) and they converted on one of those two - the game deciding 3rd and 8 throw to convert and allow them to run out the clock. Below are all 14 third downs.

Quarter Time Down Yards Location Detail Yds
1 13:44 3 4 RAI 34 Derek Carr pass complete short right to Ryan Grant for 5 yards (tackle by Kareem Jackson) 5
1 8:56 3 2 DEN 8 Derek Carr pass complete short middle to Tyrell Williams for 8 yards, touchdown 8
1 5:30 3 4 RAI 20 Derek Carr pass complete short middle to Darren Waller for 7 yards (tackle by Isaac Yiadom) 7
1 3:11 3 13 RAI 39 Derek Carr pass complete short right to Foster Moreau for 9 yards (tackle by Josey Jewell) 9
2 10:34 3 1 RAI 14 Josh Jacobs up the middle for 5 yards (tackle by Josey Jewell and Shelby Harris) 5
2 8:26 3 1 RAI 28 Derek Carr pass complete deep middle to Tyrell Williams for 43 yards (tackle by Isaac Yiadom) 43
2 6:22 3 1 DEN 20 Josh Jacobs up the middle for 3 yards (tackle by Josey Jewell and Chris Harris) 3
2 4:14 3 5 DEN 12 Derek Carr pass complete short middle to Hunter Renfrow for 10 yards (tackle by Will Parks) 10
3 8:00 3 4 RAI 31 Jalen Richard up the middle for 3 yards (tackle by Derek Wolfe) 3
3 2:57 3 2 RAI 33 Josh Jacobs up the middle for 11 yards (tackle by Kareem Jackson) 11
3 1:29 3 3 DEN 49 Derek Carr pass incomplete short middle intended for Ryan Grant (defended by Kareem Jackson) 0
4 12:43 3 6 DEN 28 Derek Carr pass complete deep middle to Tyrell Williams for 24 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons) 24
4 5:24 3 4 DEN 12 Josh Jacobs right guard for 1 yard (tackle by Von Miller and Josey Jewell) 1
4 2:00 3 8 RAI 27 Derek Carr pass complete short left to Tyrell Williams for 10 yards (tackle by Kareem Jackson) 10

They were in third and short six times and converted on five of six. They converted on seven of eight third down attempts in the first half. Admittedly we improved in the second half (stopping three of six), but allowing 50% conversion on third down, including that 3rd and 8 conversion that decided the game, is nothing to be proud of.

Allowing conversion on 10 of 14 (71.4%) 3rd down attempts has happened 149 times since 1991 (data only goes back to 1991). Teams are 21 and 128 when allowing opponents to convert at 70% or higher on 3rd down. Interestingly, two of the 21 wins happened last season: KC @ OAK and CIN @ ATL.

So those are the gory stats. Let’s dig a little deeper into the why. With a starting ILB that had only been with the team for a few days (Nelson) and a starting CB who is still relatively inexperienced (Yiadom), Oakland surmised that we would have a hard time stopping a “dink-and-dunk” passing game. The vast majority of Carr’s passes were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. This allowed Oakland’s offense to neutralize our defense’ greatest weapon, our pass rush.

Normally a savvy defense would adjust to take away the short routes which would force the opponent to call for longer routes which require more time to set up. For whatever reason, our defense was unable to make this adjustment; or maybe we did and it didn’t work. Either way, the Raiders found a strategy on offense that worked well in the opening drive and with very few exceptions, our defense was unable to stop what they were trying to do on offense.

Our defense, as I see it, is still designed to stop the run on first and second down so that we can force the opponent into 3rd and long. We failed miserably at that (2 of 14) on Monday night and the Bears are sure to try and copy what was so successful against us on Sunday. I don’t know if Mitch Trubisky is going to able to go 21/25 against us in the same way that Carr did, but in the past two years our defense has made some very mediocre quarterbacks look like world beaters.